Solar Energy on Michigan’s Preserved Farmlands: A Content Analysis of Michigan Print Media

May 2020
Trevor J. Force

As the effects of climate change intensify and Earth’s supply of fossil fuels continues to dwindle in the face of expanding consumerism and rising populations, the development of clean energy alternatives is more important than ever. Michigan’s state government has recently opened 3.4 million acres of privately owned preserved farmland to potential solar development in a move to encourage clean energy development and to make it easier for farmers to convert their lands to solar farms. However, not everyone wants solar production on their farmland, and others do not want the government dictating what they do with their own farms. This paper evaluates public commentary on this issue to determine the positive and negative aspects of the policy change and to inform future solar policy in Michigan. The results imply that support for solar is growing but has not increased significantly over the past 10 years; however, the policy change opens a lot of opportunities to farmers and solar developers in Michigan. Though this research cannot draw significant conclusions about how the policy change has affected Michigan energy consumers since its inception, it does conclude that the changes set up the Michigan solar market to grow and prosper in the future.